Most people can tell you that in order to survive, you must have food and water. However, there is a third component that is just as essential: sleep. And if you are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, getting adequate sleep is critical.
During sleep, your body heals from any damage incurred during the day and protects itself from developing illness. While in recovery, especially during the beginning when your body is withdrawing from your drug of choice, your body has extra healing to do, and every minute of sleep counts.
I discovered the wonders of napping while I was in rehab, and now, six years later, I still take one every afternoon. I learned that a good nap replenishes your energy and regulates your emotions, which is exactly what your body needs as you recover.
While you are awake, your brain is like an inbox, filling up with all sorts of information. By the time you go to sleep, the box is full, and while you sleep, each document, or piece of information, is sorted and filed. Sleep keeps your brain from getting overloaded and burning out, which is key to recovery from stress and being able to work out whatever issues you have that led you down the path of addiction in the first place.
When I was using, I had terrible sleep habits, which is common among addicts. Since I was often sleep deprived, I found myself stuck in a vicious cycle of depression, inability to make decisions, and getting high every time I felt that way so I didn’t have to think about my feelings or deal with them. Since I was more likely to exercise bad judgment and behave recklessly while I was high, I quickly realized that the quality of my sleep and the chance of relapsing were directly connected.
To better understand the connection, I studied the five stages of sleep, all of which are necessary to receive very specific benefits of proper sleep.
- Stage One – Everything slows down as you gradually transition from wakefulness to sleep.
- Stage Two – You are in a light sleep that gradually progresses to a deep, restorative sleep,
- Stages Three and Four – Your heartbeat and breathing gradually slow down even more. Your muscles are fully relaxed now, and it is difficult to be awakened at this time.
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is the last stage and happens after about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Your muscles actually become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out what happens in your dreams.
Since I was living on Mars bars and Coke, my lack of proper nutrition led to a deficiency of Stage Three sleep, which is the stage that enables you to feel rested upon wakening in the morning. Whatever reserves I had went right to keeping my vital organs running.
Gradually, however, I learned how to make the most of nap times. Here’s how:
- Don’t psyche yourself right out of sleep – Striving for perfection can actually make it more challenging to fall asleep. If you aren’t sleepy, simply close your eyes and relax for a little while.
- Set the mood – A comfortable spot with minimal light, and no interruptions will take you to the REM stage faster.
- Don’t over schedule – 20 minutes of quality time will take you through all the stages so that you wake up well rested.
So, instead of hitting the snooze button tomorrow morning, save those minutes for an afternoon power nap. You will live a healthier life, enjoying long-term sobriety.
The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California. To talk to us about treatment options at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, call (844) 494-4939.